Re: Critical thinking in memetics

Aaron Lynch (
Sat, 23 May 1998 11:53:17 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Sat, 23 May 1998 11:53:17 -0500
From: Aaron Lynch <>
Subject: Re: Critical thinking in memetics
In-Reply-To: <>

>I was getting a bit frustrated with the some of the critical hyperbole
>which seemed to be a juvenile game of "I know more than you do".


This does seem like a bit of criticism on your part, but as I have said,
criticism has its place in science. Sometimes criticism turns out to be
valid, sometimes not, and anyone who engages in much of it will likely
engage in at least some invalid criticisms at times.

By way of response, let me say that I regret having to engage in the kind
of criticism I have leveled in a crowd that includes memetics neophytes.
One problem with it is that those new to the field have absolutely no way
of knowing whether criticism is hyperbolic or understated. You would have
no way of knowing, for instance, that the galleys of my book distributed to
book reviewers listed Brodie's book as a professional courtesy--even though
I wrote my book before seeing his. Nor would it be possible for a new-comer
to know exactly what lead me to remove that bibliographic listing in going
to the publication version. Getting into that subject might involve more
criticism or even allegations, which, after all, could easily be dismissed
as juvenile. You may, however, be able to research some of these topics
yourself if it really interests you. For instance, if you want to find
specimens of hyperbole, then do an search for "The Bible of
Memetics." If you want to read the work of someone who knows more than you
and I combined, then go to and search all postings by
"" After evaluating the maturity of content, consider
doing a memetic trace to find out just who wrote all those messages.

>Perceptions are realities to individuals and a list debate is simply a
>sharing of perceptions. While it is important for a science to have
>mutually agreed definitions and terms (in order to communicate
>successfully), the content or subject should continue to evolve. (no
>doubt preaching to the converted!)
>The reason for lurking for so long is that I was hoping for a few hints
>as to what actually makes a meme contagious. We have some clues but
>nothing specific in the way of a grouping of words or thoughts. One
>penomenon I observed recently leads me to think that a major factor is
>pattern identification. If I am right in thinking that a catchy song is
>in fact a meme, then one sure fire way of selling a new song is to have
>a link to a well known already popular song. The new song in question
>is "Never Ever" by the All Saints. If you listen carefully to the
>background melody, it is in fact "Amazing Grace" with an up tempo
>overlay. Needless to say, it is already enormously popular. Is there
>any work that looks at the memes themselves and identifies or
>categorises specific infections and or agents. I have recently ordered
>a lot of books from, yours and Brodie's among them, but I
>would obviously prefer to access the information on the web if

A great deal of fine material exists on the web. But one pattern you may
notice about the limitations of web content is that when someone works for
years to produce something, they often do not give it away free of charge.
Hence, you may not be able to find the song "Never Ever" for free on the
web. The same goes for books. The question of what actually makes a meme
contagious is a book-length topic that admits of years of development.
Hence, much of the good content is in book form only. Nevertheless, there
are works available by web. The opening chapter of my book contains
beginning discussion of factors in contagiousness. It is at I also have a post-book article
"Thought Contagion and Mass Belief" at
The book chapter "Viral Sentences and Self-Replicating Structures" by
Douglas Hofstadter is also online now at

Hope this helps.

--Aaron Lynch

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